I studied three years as a History major, and I received many bad grades. So I transferred out to a different school in its computer science program.

I have completed up to third year (and a little bit more) of my CS degree in the last two years. I recently looked up the available course listing from my previous school and, once again, they are not offering the course that I received an F in.

It is a third year elective course in philosophy and they haven't offered it in the last two years. The school does not offer any course that is similar, and no one (including many advisers I spoke to at both schools) can really say that there is an alternative course that is equivalent to that course.

Basically, I can't fix it. I've retaken some courses that I did poorly in from my previous school, and gotten back positive results. My current GPA (exclusively from my current school) is close to 3.9.

But that F is really freaking me out. I'm not even hopeful that I can get into a top graduate school, but I would at least like to get into a decent one.

What can I do about this?


2 Answers 2


Computer science professors don't care what grades you got in philosophy. Even more so because this was an advanced philosophy class, not an entry-level course. And even more so because this was 3+ years ago before you started computer science, so it doesn't show an inability to reason or communicate or manage your time.

Better yet, you have a very clear narrative. When your application isn't perfect, it's nice to have a simple, clean, verifiable reason for the imperfection. In your case, it's very simple: you were terrible at philosophy, you're great at computer science. This is a great narrative, and the F only adds to it.

You should focus on computer science. Here's what's going to happen: the committee will look at your transcript and very quickly figure out that you were terrible at philosophy and good at computer science. Then they're going to want to know how good at computer science you are -- merely average? Or amazing? This is where your research, publications, letters of recommendation, advanced coursework, etc. comes in. Further, you should be very careful when writing your statement of purpose -- you'll need to address your previous major, but there's no need to make excuses for it, just say that it wasn't a good fit and then focus on your current work.

Even if you could retake that class and get rid of the F, you shouldn't bother. It just doesn't gain you anything, and there are better uses for your time.


Quit worrying about your GPA and pay attention to the GRE. That's what matters for graduate school. Why would the admissions committee care about a course you took 5 years ago in a different major?

If you are deeply concerned (and you seem to be), trying seeing if the department/professor will arrange a way in which you can re-take the class as a independent study/special seminar. It's unlikely, but possible. Changing the actual grade is very unlikley unless you experienced a personal tragedy such as the loss of a family member, or a major injury or chronic illness.

  • If you are deeply concerned (and you seem to be), trying doing an independent study with the professor, and see if they will permit a change of grade on that basis. Have you ever heard of anyone doing this? That sounds grossly unfair and a professor in the United States would never do this five years later. May 29, 2018 at 17:25
  • Also, the GRE is not that important in many fields; but I can't speak to CS (assuming the OP is looking into CS grad programs). May 29, 2018 at 17:25
  • Azor, all sorts of weird crap gets done off the record. Formally speaking, it would not be a change of grade, but rather the student re-taking the class. This would assume that some institutional pressure could be brought to bear on the professor to do it, and then the office of the registrar would then record the independent study as the (no longer existent) class. More likely would be they would just offer the class again, or name another class that is the equivalent to it. Good enough to get you graduated, but unlikely to fix the GPA. Sort of a Hail Mary sort of effort.
    – Mox
    May 29, 2018 at 21:43
  • Again, have you ever seen anyone do this? 1) This question is explicitly about doing something on the record. 2) Why would the institution pressure a professor to do this? It's very unethical. 3) Why would the registrar record a class you took as one you didn't take? Again, highly unethical. 4) This question is not about getting a high enough GPA to graduate. May 29, 2018 at 21:46
  • As an honors undergrad, I watched students invent all sorts of medical bullshit to fix their grades. Professors don't want the details, and if you have a good relationship, are willing to be generous. 2) shrug. It would have to come from the Dean, likely, for Dean-reasons. If the person could make a persuasive case to the Dean or department chair, the professor would likely go along with it. 3) It would not be recording a class not taken--it would be recording an independent study as an iteration of a class no longer offered. 4) The F can be erased, but only with attenuating circumstances.
    – Mox
    May 29, 2018 at 22:18

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